LOOKING BACK… AND LOOKING AHEAD
By Neil Silberman and Angela Labrador
With the OAS Project “Expanding the Socio-Economic Potential of Cultural Heritage in the Caribbean” about to end in just a few weeks, we, as the project’s technical consultants, are proud of what has been achieved by the Caribbean Heritage Network; aware of the challenges that its members face; and hopeful that Cultural Heritage practice throughout the region will play a changed, yet sustainable, role in Caribbean society in the coming years.
We have worked with many of you directly and with many more indirectly; we have learned so much about the cultural wealth and local distinctiveness of every participating country; we have been energized by your passion for work and wide variety of your talents and skills. It’s been a wild ride—simultaneously working with you on frameworks for networking, legislation, inventories, Local endorsement programmes, and online heritage education. And as we look back, we hope that the paradigm of meaningful community involvement in every aspect of heritage documentation, protection, and promotion has proved itself to you.
Of course, no one ever expected that the project would end at a time of global pandemic and extended local lockdowns. That is not exactly a situation where community engagement can bloom. Tourism has come to a standstill. Unemployment has soared. In a region so dependent on tourism as the Caribbean, things—especially Cultural Heritage things—are going to have to dramatically change. And maybe that is what we were all unknowingly preparing for: the great opportunity: to see that cultural heritage is a collective social process, not just a marketable thing.
We wish success to all our colleagues throughout the region and are grateful to Tara Inniss, director of the Caribbean Heritage Network, for her enthusiasm, wise insights, and commitment to using historical scholarship to improve contemporary society. We thank all of you who have helped to make the project and the network so successful. And we are grateful to Celia Toppin, our anchor as OAS Technical Project Manager; to Richard Campbell, head, OAS Tourism and Culture Section; and to Maryse Robert, director of the OAS Department of Economic Development for their unwavering support. Everything was made possible by the United States Permanent Mission to the OAS, which funded this project conceived in earlier, less troubled times.
In the months and years to come, we will follow your work with great interest. And please stay in touch with us, through the CHN, of course!
Angela Labrador (l.) and Neil Silberman (r.) at the project workshop “Community Participation in National Inventories and Registers,” Bridgetown, Barbados – September 2019.